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There were honorable deeds in “A Man Without Honor”, though predictably not from the man in the title, but from many others, including women. And when there wasn’t any honor at all, ironically, Jaime Lannister (the man without honor) didn’t emerge as the worst of the lot. The episode also treated us to several variants of the cat-and-mouse game featuring fleeting escapes, not-so-veiled threats, and the best of it all, cat and mouse switching places to our delight.
Game of Thrones is a complex tapestry. One in which not all design elements can be at the forefront and capture our attention all the time. Jaime Lannister, Queen Regent Cersei’s brother and lover, fell victim to that and was brought back in an episode that featured him prominently, though arguably not enough to justify being associated to its title. Until now, the kingslayer was known for little else than his incestuous relationship and for killing the mad king, but here, we got to see how ruthless the man of action is. The story took the time to present the quasi-adoration his jailmate felt for him (and for what chivalry represents) before he killed him. It was very effective as it allowed us to see how little influence such feelings had on his plans, and it was dramatic because it was made in such a way that the viewer realized the young squire’s fate right before the former kingsguard expressed it in words and followed through.
The more obvious man without honor in the episode was Theon Greyjoy, led by his quest for recognition into the kind of violence that achieves exactly the opposite. His beating of his man was hesitant and made him appear more weak than anything else, just as his constant need to justify his actions. While Jaime Lannister saw violence as a painting (read some form of beauty), Theon Greyjoy thought “It’s better to be cruel than weak,” and one might argue that while Jaime Lannister did the only thing he was good at, Theon Greyjoy wasn’t strong enough to resist lusting for recognition and respect through every mean imaginable. At this point, obviously none of them stands out as a role model, but while one has a twisted sense of honor, the other seems to be driven by human frailty, a weakness in character and morals.
While Jaime Lannister failed in his escape, and (I think) Theon Greyjoy didn’t capture Bran Stark and his companions, Arya and Tywin continued their own variant of the cat-and-mouse game. Tywin is still enjoying the young girl, but for the first time has expressed the fact that he doesn’t particularly like being made fun of. He still believes he’s holding all the cards, congratulating himself for unmasking her as a “high-born”. To me, this episode showed a problem in the portrayal of the relationship so far; on the one hand, Tywin needs a public, so in an effort to bring Arya into the fold, the show successfully made it clear many of his lieutenants were not good enough, but on the other hand, presenting Tywin only through his interactions with Arya is a bit restrictive. This powerful man so concerned with his legacy should be shown working on that legacy a bit more. That said, their scenes were again among the best of the episode. They very effectively conveyed what drives Tywin while giving us an inkling into Arya’s role models. The young Stark knows he’s the enemy and the way she looked at his neck while holding the knife was telling enough, but she also enjoys their conversations. No doubt because they give her access to subjects out of reach for her companions in Harrenhal’s kitchen. As twisted as the situation might be, Tywin is continuing her education.
On the subject of education, Jon Snow had plenty of it beyond the Wall with Ygritte, his wildling captive. His cat-and-mouse game, by far the best of the hour, brought to his ears things that would make any young man’s loins react in earnest, and react he did. Jon blushed and gave the impression he would renounce his vows but a mixture of honor, legacy and maybe fear kept him out of that danger for now. The show should be praised for finding the right tone for the situation. Coming from a high-born lady in King’s Landing, Ygritte’s enticing and wonderfully portrayed scene would have not necessarily endeared the character to the viewer, but from a a wildling beyond the Wall, the playfulness definitely drowned the “language”. Ygritte continued to play with him even after realizing they were surrounded by her people, and after her escape, she kept joking on the subject, not giving a signal to kill him, which bodes well for Jon. Even though cat and mouse have switched roles, the perception is that what has passed between them seems to protect him from an immediate danger while she’s around. The relationship has been developed flawlessly until now and is enhanced by the battle it has ignited inside Jon. For the first time, the young man has to confront a consequence of his choice to join the Night’s Watch.
Meanwhile Talisa Maegyr continued to bring the best out of the king in the North who seems to be the only one deserving the title of king. Robb Stark ignored accepted customs and rode with the foreigner from Volentis after stealing a smile from her with his request to treat all wounded men well, including the enemy. Here is another engaging relationship with the appropriate amount of mystery on the female side.
Further south at King’s Landing, things weren’t so refreshing, though the language was less likely to make anyone blush, even when discussing love making. I liked what the show has done from the very beginning with Sansa and the Hound, Joffrey’s bodyguard. In season one, he protected her from herself (when her betrothed displayed the head of her father on a spike) and after he saved her last week, she found the courage to thank him in this episode. The Hound is no gentleman and he shows no kindness to his “little bird”, even though he is clearly touched by something the very lady-like Sansa radiates. On the chapter of things that are not black or white, the episode also showed a different, almost compassionate and vulnerable Cersei.
Across the sea, Daenerys Targaryen equally appeared vulnerable, but her anger came into play as well, leading to trust issues. Poor Jorah Mormont tried his best but our favorite mother of dragons was not in the mood to be appeased. Her escape is not going to be straightforward, her cat-and-mouse game seeming now clearly in favor of the bloodthirsty or maybe power hungry cat(s) in Qarth.